Croatia is not a major player in the European aquaculture industry and it won’t be in the future unless it completely changes its focus, according to a leading fisheries professor from the University of Dubrovnik.
Branko Glamuzine told delegates at the Offshore Mariculture 2010 conference, held last week in Dubrovnik, Croatia, that rather than trying to rival the production capabilities of Greece or Turkey, Croatia should instead use its provenance and high standing with tourists to focus on the fresh, local seafood market.
“Croatian aquaculture is a story of lost opportunities. Although one of the pioneers of the industry with a coastline that would support many production sites, our actual output is insignificant in European terms,” he said.
Croatia produces just 12,000 metric tons of farmed seafood annually, valued at around EUR 120 million (USD 147 million), including 4,000 metric tons of sea bass and gilthead sea bream and 3,500 metric tons of mussels. It also includes 4,000 metric tons of ranched bluefin tuna, valued at EUR 80 million (USD 98 million), which is only sold to Japan.
While bluefin makes up two-thirds of the country’s aquaculture revenue, Glamuzine doubts that the tuna industry will be allowed to be as lucrative in the future.
“Further development of tuna production is unpredictable because of the unstable and questionable sourcing of wild fish — let’s not forget that at the moment tuna culture is still based on capture-based farming,” he said. “During the last five years, Croatia’s tuna quota has been around 800 [metric] tons with a decreasing trend. As tuna is generally treated as overfished, with ongoing restrictions on fishery activities, the quotas will probably become even lower in the upcoming years.”
The Croatian government’s aim is to reach annual production of 10,000 metric tons of bass and bream and 20,000 metric tons of mussels. But Glamuzine said that due to many obstacles — the most prominent being competition for marine space with other end users (tourism, marinas, etc.) — the prospects were “not very bright” for reaching this goal in the short-term.
However, he was adamant that European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) production, which currently stands at just 100 metric tons, offers “real potential” for Croatian producers to make their mark domestically, and eventually in the EU. Inshore areas should be used for growing oysters and other higher-priced shellfish, but first some infrastructure investments are necessary, he said.
At the moment, the country does not have any industrial shellfish hatcheries. A pilot hatchery, owned by the University of Dubrovnik, exists in Ston, but this is only used for research and technology development.
Glamuzine explained that the Maliston Bay area is famous for its tradition in native flat oysters — there are documents written about their culture dating back 300 years.
So while oysters are not produced in any great numbers, he said they are important for the region’s socio-economy (around 120 boats and dozens of small, family-owned farms) and as a source of traditional eco-tourism, based on local shellfish gastronomy.
According to Glamuzine, around 70 percent of Croatia’s fishing, aquaculture and processing activities take place on islands, where income sources are limited, making the activities vitally important.All Aquaculture stories >